“The Man Who Would be Dracula” by Simon R. Green
What happened to all the old monsters? There was a time when the vampire and the werewolf were universally acknowledged and feared; and then suddenly we all lived in an age of reason, and no one believed in monsters out of fairy tales. But in reality the monsters chose to vanish from view, rather than risk being exposed by electric lights and mass communications. It was safer to be a legend. And so they all disappeared into the underworld of crime; and discovered new ways to prey on Humanity.
Only one monster was prepared to fight his own kind; Edward Hyde. He founded Jekyll & Hyde Inc, and dispensed his marvelous Elixir to those he thought best suited to take on the now very wealthy and well-established monster Clans.
Daniel and Tina drank the potion and worked for Edward, becoming both more and less than human for what they thought were good reasons. Together they wiped out the monster Clans; only to discover that Edward Hyde was worse than all of them. So they killed him as well, and took over the running of Jekyll & Hyde Inc. Daniel and Tina are the last of the Hydes; but they’re still looking for a few good monsters . . .
The mists were unusually thick on that quiet autumn night in London’s Soho. A great grey ocean filled the narrow streets, diffusing the curdled yellow glow from the street lamps and concealing any number of sins and sinners. Daniel and Tina Hyde went striding through Soho like the biggest sharks in that grey ocean, smiling happily as they went in search of something worth killing. The few furtive souls still out and about at that ungodly hour hurried to get out of their way. They might not know who the Hydes were, but they had no problem recognizing predators when they saw them. So everyone fell back to give them plenty of room and averted their eyes, hoping not to be noticed. A few even hid in doorways until the Hydes were safely past.
Daniel and Tina affected not to notice, just taking it as their due.
Daniel Hyde was tall and muscular, wide in the shoulder and broad in the chest. He strode down the street as though he meant to walk over and possibly right through anything or anyone that got in his way. He was handsome enough, in a dark-haired and dark-eyed way, and wore a smart suit with a casual air. He’d killed monsters and loved it; and it showed in his smile.
Valentina Hyde, (always Tina, never Val,) at six and a half foot was a good head taller than Daniel. She had the physique of a body-builder, and the grace of some exotic jungle beast. She looked glamorous and extremely dangerous, and gloried in it. A great mane of crimson hair cascaded down to her shoulders, framing a strikingly handsome face with fierce green eyes and a wide mocking mouth.
Hydes on the prowl; looking for trouble. So they could stamp on it.
“Tell me again,” said Tina. “Why are we out tramping the streets in this less than salubrious neighborhood, when we could be enjoying ourselves in some fashionable dive; drinking heavily, picking fights with strangers, and generally trashing the place?”
“Because our work isn’t over yet,” said Daniel. “We wiped out the Frankensteins and the vampires, the mummies and the werewolves; but the ghouls have gone to ground. It’s up to us to dig them out.”
“They were conspicuous by their absence, during our war against the Clans,” said Tina. “According to Edward’s files, the ghouls were never organized enough to have a Clan, as such. They survived by making themselves useful, cleaning up the messes the Clans left behind. Because ghouls will eat anything.”
“But now it appears the ghouls are coming together in large numbers, for some purpose of their own,” said Daniel. “We need to find out what’s going on, and put a stop to it. Suddenly and violently, because that’s the Hyde way.”
“You know how to show a girl a good time,” Tina said cheerfully. “But still; ghouls? Are they really worth the effort?”
“They’re all that’s left of the old monsters, and we’re all that’s left of the Hydes,” said Daniel. “We didn’t put our lives on the line to bring down the Clans, just so the ghouls could move into the gap they left behind.”
Tina shot him a sideways look. “Are you sure you’re not just feeling the need to do something, because you used to be a cop? Hydes don’t do duty.”
“Hydes don’t rest on their laurels,” Daniel said calmly. “Not when there are still bad guys who need showing the error of their ways.”
“Will there be murder and mayhem, and mass destruction of property?” said Tina.
“I did promise you a good evening out,” said Daniel.
Tina smiled happily. “Where are we going? Are we nearly there yet?”
“According to an informant who seemed to believe I was ready to beat him within an inch of his life, because I was, the ghouls are currently operating from behind the cover of a fast-food franchise just a few streets from here,” said Daniel.
“How appropriate,” said Tina.
When they reached the fast-food emporium, it was closed. The door was locked, there were no lights on anywhere, and all the indications were that not only was no one home, but no one had been for some time.
“Not so much deserted, as abandoned,” said Tina.
“That’s what everyone is supposed to think,” said Daniel. “I suppose we could go round the rear, crack open a back door and sneak in?”
Tina sniffed loudly. “Hydes don’t sneak.”
Daniel grinned, and kicked the front door so hard he ripped it right off its hinges. The door flew inward and measured its length on the floor, and the crash raised echoes that filled the whole place. Daniel and Tina strode into the gloomy interior, looking around hopefully for something worth hitting. The tables and chairs were empty, the serving area was unoccupied, and when Tina ran a fingertip across a tabletop it came away grey with dust.
“Not that I’m questioning your no doubt suitably terrified source,” said Tina, “But this place couldn’t be any emptier if it was called the Marie Celeste.”
Daniel grinned, and led her through the tables to one particular patch of floor. He knelt down, and pointed out a carefully concealed trapdoor.
“My informant couldn’t do enough to help me, once I’d pointed out that the alternative involved him having to learn how to walk on his elbows.”
“I get so hot when you talk dirty,” said Tina.
Daniel tugged at the steel ring embedded in the trapdoor, but the door wouldn’t budge. From the feel of it, there were a great many locks and bolts involved on the underside. So he took a firm grip on the ring and hauled the trapdoor out of the floor. It came free with a loud wrenching of wood and the squealing of broken steel, and Daniel casually tossed the heavy door to one side.
“Show off,” said Tina.
The new opening revealed a set of bare stone steps, leading down into an unrelieved darkness.
“Of course, it’s bound to be a trap,” said Daniel.
“Great!” said Tina. “Let’s walk into it!”
“Why not?” said Daniel.
They clattered loudly down the stone steps, their eyes quickly adjusting to the gloom, until they reached a huge and intimidatingly heavy door at the bottom, held shut by several really big locks.
“Okay, they’re just teasing us now,” said Tina. And she kicked the door so hard she broke the great wooden slab in two, leaving the jagged parts hanging drunkenly from shattered hinges. Bright light spilled out into the stairway.
“Knock, knock!” said Tina.
The Hydes strolled into a great stone cavern, fiercely illuminated by rows of overhead fluorescent lights. Hundreds of ghouls were sitting packed together on low benches, at rows of empty tables. They all turned to stare at Daniel and Tina; scrawny, naked, grey-skinned creatures, with wrinkled turnip faces and huge eyes.
“So these are ghouls,” said Daniel. “They look like things that belong underground; or under stones.”
“Don’t let the lean and hungry look fool you,” said Tina. “Ghouls have appetites like you wouldn’t believe; and teeth that could bite through a marble mausoleum to get at the goodies inside.”
“How strong are they?” said Daniel.
“They don’t have to be strong,” said Tina. “They have numbers. And teeth.”
And then both Hydes looked round sharply, as a deep and cultured voice issued from the dark shadows at the rear of the cavern.
“Well, well, what have we here? It would seem we have visitors, my children; uninvited, but not necessarily unwelcome.”
Daniel and Tina moved closer together, as a tall and sturdy figure emerged unhurriedly from the shadows and stepped out into the light. He wore a formal tuxedo under a sweeping black opera cape with a blood red lining. He had a dead white face, night dark hair, and when he smiled at the Hydes they could clearly see the elongated canines.
“Hydes . . .” he said. “I am honored.”
Daniel looked at Tina. “A vampire?”
“Very old school vampire,” said Tina. “The full Lugosi.”
“What is a vampire doing here?” said Daniel.
“Ask him,” said Tina.
The Hydes faced the vampire with a cold stare, and he inclined his head courteously.
“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Count Dracula.”
Daniel had to raise an eyebrow. “Really?”
“This is my domain, and these are my servants,” said Dracula. “And I remain old school, because this aspect still has the power to compel. My children see, and they believe; and so I have power over them. Ghouls don’t have it in them to challenge the authority of a vampire. I know both of you, of course; the infamous Daniel and Tina Hyde. Word does get around, in our rather limited circle.”
“I was sure we’d killed all the vampires,” said Daniel. “We hit your annual gathering in the deserted Tube tunnels under London, with a rushing river of holy water!”
“We had it blessed specially,” said Tina
“I wasn’t at the gathering,” said Dracula. “I’ve never been a joiner. But since you did destroy all my undead kith and kin, I thought it wise to keep my head down. Until it occurred to me . . . that with all the monster Clans destroyed, there was now a power vacuum at the heart of crime that I could step into. And so I became lord of the ghouls; and a ruler of my own little kingdom once again.”
“I wouldn’t have thought a vampire would lower himself to associate with ghouls,” said Daniel.
Dracula shrugged. “I had to build my power base with the tools available. How did you know to find me here?”
“We didn’t come here for you,” said Tina. “We were just interested in why the ghouls were organizing.”
“So it was my own success brought you to my door,” said Dracula. “Be sure your sins will find you out . . .”
“You’re avoiding the question,” said Daniel. “Why ghouls?”
“These are my new children of the night,” said Dracula. “A bit rough and ready; but so much quieter than the old ones.”
“And they just let you walk in and take over?” said Tina.
“Ghouls have always needed someone to tell them what to do,” said Dracula.
“And what, exactly, do they do for you?” said Daniel.
“I sub-let their services to criminal organizations all over London,” said Dracula. “The ghouls make themselves useful, by disposing of any and all physical evidence that might link someone to a crime. Because ghouls will eat anything.”
“Shut your ugly face,” said Tina.
Dracula broke off abruptly, because no one argued with Tina when she was in that kind of mood. She scowled heavily, concentrating on something only she could hear, and then moved quickly between the rows of tables. The ghouls turned their heads to follow her. She finally stopped before one particular section of a stone wall, and listened hard.
“Get away from there!” Dracula said sharply. “You won’t find anything of any interest to you!”
“But I can hear something,” said Tina.
“It’s none of your business!” said Dracula.
Tina grinned back at Daniel. “Well; now I really want to know.” She leaned in close and ran her fingertips over the stone wall. “Well; would you believe it? There’s a door concealed here. I wonder what’s on the other side.”
She wrenched the door out of the wall and tossed it away. She peered in through the opening, then stood very still.
“What is it, Tina?” said Daniel. “What do you see in there?”
“People,” said Tina, not looking back at him. “Living people, in cages. Some of them are children.”
Daniel moved quickly through the tables to join her. The ghouls watched him pass, making no move to try to stop him. Daniel stood beside Tina and stared into the adjoining chamber. Dozens of naked people had been crammed into cages barely three-foot square. The children were packed in two or three at a time. It was obvious the cages hadn’t been cleaned out for some time. The prisoners looked at Daniel and Tina with pleading eyes, barely daring to hope. The Hydes turned away, to stare at Dracula.
He drew himself up to his full height, and swept his cape about him. “Someone is always an inconvenience, to somebody else. Inconvenient witnesses, certain individuals who know too much; or just people who got in the way of more important people. I take them all. My ghouls are always hungry.”
“Ghouls don’t eat the living,” said Tina. “It’s not in their nature.”
“I take care of that,” said Dracula.
“There are children,” said Daniel.
Something in his voice made Dracula stir uneasily. “Someone will profit from their disappearance. There’s no one in there who matters, or who’ll be missed. Since when are Hydes sentimental?”
“We have a conscience,” said Daniel.
“And there’s a line we won’t cross,” said Tina. “What do you want to do, Daniel?”
“I promised you a night of murder and mayhem,” said Daniel. “How would you like to kill everyone here who isn’t in a cage?”
She thought about it. “There’s no fun in killing ghouls. And I get the feeling they’re as much the victims as anyone else. But Mister Cape and Fangs . . .”
“Yes,” said Daniel. “Without the Count to organize them, the ghouls will stop being a problem.”
“Stand, my children!” said Dracula.
And just like that, hundreds of ghouls rose to their feet. They were all staring at the Hydes now, with their huge unblinking eyes. There was no trace of a human expression in their wrinkled grey faces, but their smiles revealed teeth like chisels.
“My children are always hungry,” said Dracula.
“But they don’t eat the living,” Daniel said steadily. “It’s not in their nature.”
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” said Dracula.
Daniel reached out to the nearest table and ripped off one of its legs. He hefted the weight in one hand, and then nodded easily to Dracula.
“How do you like your stake?”
Dracula’s smile widened. “That won’t help you, against me.”
He reached inside his tuxedo and brought out a gun. Daniel had to raise an eyebrow.
“Since when do vampires need weapons?”
Dracula shrugged. “We all have to move with the times.”
Tina surged forward impossibly quickly, barging right through the tables and sending the ghouls sprawling. Dracula raised his gun, but Tina was moving so quickly he couldn’t bring it to bear on her. He opened fire anyway, and black blood spurted from ghouls as they fell dying. Dracula ran out of bullets and Tina threw herself at him, her hands straining for his throat. He waited till she was almost upon him, and then his arm came sweeping round with vicious force, hitting her so hard she was sent flying back through the tables and slammed into a stone wall with such force she fell stunned to the floor.
Daniel walked between the tables, heading straight for Dracula. The vampire reloaded his gun, took careful aim and opened fire. Daniel ducked and dodged with more than human reflexes, and though the bullets passed so close he could feel their passage, not one hit him. Dracula ran out of bullets again; and Daniel’s fist lashed out with superhuman strength, more than enough to take Dracula’s head right off. But Dracula’s reactions were more than human too. He moved just enough that the fist sailed harmlessly past his head, and then he slammed his own fist into Daniel’s gut. Daniel went down on one knee, bent over his pain, and Dracula raised his fist in a killing blow over the exposed neck.
Tina came charging forward again. Dracula saw her coming, but by the time he turned to face her she was close enough to punch him in the mouth with all her strength. Blood flew from his crushed lips; and the false vampire teeth shot out of his mouth.
Dracula staggered backwards, blood coursing down his chin. Tina helped Daniel to his feet, and they stood together and stared at the man who wasn’t a vampire. He regained his balance, spat out a mouthful of blood, and raised a shaky hand.
“Wait! There’s no reason for us to fight. I’m not what you think.”
“We had already worked that out,” said Tina.
“If you’re not a vampire,” said Daniel. “What the hell are you?”
“I’m a rogue Hyde,” said Dracula. “I’ve spent years on the run, concealing who and what I am behind any number of masks.”
“I thought Edward killed all the other Hydes,” said Tina. “How did you get away?”
“By not being there when he came to rip my head off,” said Dracula. “I should have stayed hidden; but when I heard you’d killed off the monster Clans . . . I saw an opportunity.”
“By enslaving the ghouls?” said Daniel.
“It’s not like they were doing anything useful with their lives . . . And I made them into one of the biggest criminal organizations in London! Look; I’m not greedy. We can run the ghouls together, and share the profits. The way money has been coming in, there’s enough for all of us.”
“No,” said Daniel.
“We wouldn’t lower ourselves,” said Tina.
“Oh come on!” said Dracula. “We’re Hydes!”
“There’s still a line we won’t cross,” said Daniel.
“What line?” said Dracula.
“The children,” said Tina.
“We kill monsters,” said Daniel. “And you’re the only monster here.”
Dracula turned to give orders to his ghouls, but they were already advancing on him, walking right past Daniel and Tina. Their eyes were fixed on their former master, and they were all smiling the same awful smile.
“They saw the false teeth,” said Daniel. “And they saw you bleed. Now they know you’re not a vampire, you have no authority over them.”
“They can’t kill me,” said Dracula, as the ghouls formed a circle around him. “It’s not in their nature!”
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” said Daniel. He turned to Tina. “I’ll take care of this. You free the prisoners, and get them out of here.”
“Why can’t I deal with him?” said Tina. “You promised me murder and mayhem!”
“Later,” said Daniel. “You get to free the prisoners, because you’re the good-looking one. They won’t be as afraid of you. Of course; they don’t know you like I do.”
Tina smiled. “You say the sweetest things.”
She disappeared into the adjoining room, and there was the sound of rending steel as Tina took out her thwarted temper on the cages. After a while, she came back out with the prisoners, and led them through the cavern. Most were so weak they had to lean on each other, but Tina kept them moving until they were out of the cavern and started up the stairs. Daniel turned back to face Dracula, hefting the wooden stake in his hand.
“I’m not a real vampire!” said Dracula. “That won’t work on me!”
“A stake always works,” said Daniel. “As long as you hammer it in hard enough.”
He walked forward, and the ghouls parted to let him pass. Dracula threw a desperate punch at Daniel, but he sidestepped it neatly, and slammed the stake in under the sternum. New blood gushed from Dracula’s mouth, and he clutched the stake with both hands, trying to pull it out. Daniel hit the stake with the palm of his hand, and drove it right through the man’s heart. Dracula fell dead to the floor and the ghouls made a single low sound, like a collective sigh. Daniel nodded to them.
He turned and walked away, and didn’t look back. He’d have to help Tina get the prisoners to safety, but afterwards . . . He’d promised her a night of mayhem and murder; and the night wasn’t over yet.
Copyright © 2021 by Simon R. Green
This story is set within the world of Simon R. Green’s September 2021 novel Jekyll and Hyde Inc. Green is the New York Times best-selling author of more than sixty science fiction, fantasy, and mystery novels. Simon sold his first book in 1988 and the very next year was commissioned to write the best-selling novelization of the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. From there he went on to write many more series of books including Deathstalker, Nightside, Secret History, Forest Kingdom, and the Ishmael Jones mysteries among others. His books have sold over 3.8 million copies worldwide and have been translated into over a dozen different languages.